Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Two Heads Are Better Than One

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Two Heads Are Better Than One

Article excerpt

Shared leadership offers the chance to lighten the workload and pass on experience

Reaching a certain age as a school leader means facing hard truths. I turned 62 last year and I was torn between not being ready to slow down and accepting that I didn't have the energy to do the job as well as I did in the past. I know I am not alone in this.

Where my situation differs from many is that I haven't been forced to abandon my position and I haven't imposed myself on the school beyond my best-before date - two outcomes that often occur in these situations.

Instead, the governors offered a solution that not only maintains my personal interest but also ensures that the school still benefits from my expertise, the students are not disrupted by a new figure of authority suddenly pacing the corridors and career and development opportunities are provided for existing staff. The solution is co-leadership and it is one that should be used more often.

Division of labour

I have taken a step back, reducing my hours to three days a week. The appointment of an associate principal, Paul, means I can fulfil a strategic rather than a day-to-day management role.

When planning this arrangement, we both realised that we would need to agree some ground rules to make it work, so we divided up our responsibilities clearly.

Paul, who was previously vice-principal, concentrates on operational matters. For example, he now approves all staff leave, and handles exclusions and site issues.

I, meanwhile, have overall responsibility for the strategic direction and identity of the school. I work closely with the governing body to make decisions such as how to manage the budget, whether to change the status of the school and how we might need to adjust our curriculum to meet government regulations. I am also the primary contact for our feeder and cluster schools and I directly manage finance, communication and recruitment-related issues.

The arrangement has taken some time to bed in. Paul is very tolerant when I meddle with decisions that are now his area of responsibility - I find it really difficult to stay away from diary meetings, for example. I have to accept that this new dynamic no longer allows me the control I once had over every element of the school. …

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